TORONTO — The Maple Leafs were brimming with happiness after Friday’s 2-1 victory.
Toronto went into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bruins at TD Garden knowing a loss would end its season.
Instead of succumbing to the pressure, the young Maple Leafs put on a clinic for the better part of two periods and staved off a late surge by Boston to force Game 6 Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre. The final seven or eight minutes of Game 5 were a testament to the Leafs’ tenacity and goaltending by James Reimer, who made 18 of his 43 saves in the third period.
“We knew that [the Bruins] were going to come,’’ said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. “When they’re down a bit, they’re going to keep pushing. We talked about that and expected that, and they really did. They kept coming but we did a good job of keeping most of the stuff to the outside, but when they did get them through, [Reimer] was huge for us.’’
When asked if the pressure has now shifted to Boston, Phaneuf said it wasn’t Toronto’s concern.
“Right now, we’re focused on getting rested here and getting ready for Sunday,’’ he said. “It’s one game at a time right now. They’re an unbelievable team over there that we knew would play hard [in Game 5] and that’s what they did, as did we. It was another hard-fought game in a series that’s been hard-fought so far.’’
Toronto faced its biggest challenge in Game 5 during the final four minutes.
“They had a power play there [beginning at 16:12] and then an empty net,’’ said Phaneuf. “They moved the puck around well, they’ve got a lot of skill. They’ve got guys who are extremely skilled up front and that’s what they do, they hold the puck and they make plays. We did a good job of keeping it to the outside for the most part, and when the shots did get through, [Reimer] was there to make the saves.’’
Phaneuf said the Leafs’ optimism heading into Game 6 is tempered by the direness of their situation.
“When you win a big game, you’ve got to enjoy it for a little bit and then move forward and look at the task at hand, which is Sunday,’’ he said.
Both Toronto goals Friday were unassisted. Center Tyler Bozak picked up his first goal of the series at 11:27 of the second period when the team was shorthanded. Clarke MacArthur made it a 2-0 game at 1:58 of the third, his second goal in two games, after not dressing for Games 2 and 3.
“I think Clarke’s been an unbelievable teammate, a true professional the way that he’s handled everything,’’ said Phaneuf. “He’s a veteran guy that was out of the lineup and he came back. I am really happy for him to score. He’s a huge part of our team and it was great to see him get that goal.’’
Bozak’s goal took the monkey off his back. It was his second point of the series.
“In a big game it was nice to get us on the board,’’ said Bozak. “We haven’t been in the playoffs since I’ve been here and it was a huge one for us. They were coming at us pretty hard at the end but we were able to keep it out of our net. [Reimer] has proved he’s a No. 1. We believe in him in this room. As far as we go, we’re going to need him every night and he’s been doing that for us.’’
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle expects the Bruins to come out of the gate much better than they did in Game 5.
“I think that we really have to make sure that our preparation is proper and we’ve already spoken to them about that after the game and made sure that we did the right things between now and the faceoff Sunday night,’’ said Carlyle. “It’s of vast importance that we take care of every little thing that we can physically. Mentally might be just as difficult because we were in a situation where we had to win a game on the road and now we’re going back home and I’m sure that we’ve poked the Bruins.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.